Unbeknownst to computer owners, malware infects millions of computers around the world. Many times, these malicious software programs create “zombies,” or “bots” where the computer is taken over by an outside party and used to send spam or perform other notorious processes. An army of zombies makes up a “botnet,” which is a network of zombies that are triggered to send spam or denial of service attacks en masse.
One extreme example of the dangers of zombies was recently reported in the Washington Post. The article examined how some people who claim innocence were convicted of involvement with child pornography after their computers were infected by a virus and used to store and sometimes distribute horrific images.
The article goes on to explain:
Pedophiles can exploit virus-infected PCs to remotely store and view their stash without fear they’ll get caught. Pranksters or someone trying to frame you can tap viruses to make it appear that you surf illegal Web sites.
Whatever the motivation, you get child porn on your computer – and might not realize it until police knock at your door.
In one case, Michael Fiola was fired in 2007 after his company found child pornography stored on his work computer. He spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees while his reputation suffered…and after nearly a year, it was in fact proven that a virus had infected his computer, causing it to systematically visit pornographic Web sites while he was nowhere near the computer. In other cases, the defendants were not as successful in proving their innocence, and many of them are now serving time in prison.
There are organizations (e.g. Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection – ASACP and Internet Watch Foundation – IWF) that have banded together to try and eliminate child pornography from the Internet. The IWF manages a list of Web sites containing child abuse images, which can be incorporated into Commtouch’s anti-spam solution to screen emails containing child abuse and exploitative content and flag them as non-compliant. Many Commtouch partners have implemented the IWF material to protect their customers.
For real-time Zombie statistics and information, check out the Zombie Lab in our Online Security Center.